Observatory skills research team update: April 2010

This post is the first in a new series of weekly Observatory research updates; there will be one post from a different research team each week. We’re doing this in response to feedback we received in our recent website user survey. Please do get in touch with any feedback.

April was a very busy month for the Observatory’s Skills Team as we completed existing work and started new projects. This post rounds up recently published research and current projects.

Feedback on Regional Skills Assessment 2009

We’ve received excellent results from our evaluation of the Regional Skills Assessment 2009, how it’s being used and which elements are most useful for policy makers. Key headlines are:

  • Overall satisfaction rating is 3.43 (out of 4)
  • Ratings are highest for our professionalism and the quality of the reports

The Assessment, published 12th February 2010, covers a number of new areas compared to previous years’ Assessments. It focuses on recent trends, the impact of recession and prospects for recovery. The Assessment also includes a series of six detailed sub-​regional skills profiles assessing recent trends and future prospects for both the demand for and supply of skills.

The profiles highlight key issues to support, particularly:

  • Development of Local Economic Assessments by local authorities
  • Commissioning 16-​19 learning provision
  • Work of sub-​regional Employment and Skills Boards

More about the Regional Skills Assessment 2009 »

Environmental Technologies Skills Review

This review was completed and we’re now developing a policy engagement case study linking to the project recommendations. The project was met with high enthusiasm by our key audiences and the dissemination event in January 2010 had a great impact.

The report identifies significant market opportunities related to renewable energy technologies, recycling and waste management and clean and waste water management. In turn these developments are driving demand for both specialist technical skills and a range of more generic or transferable skills.

The research also found there were widespread recruitment difficulties and skill shortages across the cluster prior to the recession, notably relating to mechanical, process, electrical and chemical engineers. While these may re-emerge in the recovery, a number of others have persisted through the downturn.

Some of the recommendations are:

  • Promoting collaboration and networking – businesses and education institutions
  • Promoting environmental technologies as a potential career choice
  • Developing a ‘fit for purpose’ supply of skills and training
  • Promoting uptake of apprenticeships

More about the Environment Technologies Skills Review »

Post-recession West Midlands

Starting approximately in the second half of 2009, the world economy started (more or less, depending on different regions’ geographies) to recover, and politicians and economists started to talk about a post-recession period.

Our research on key issues for the West Midlands economy post-recession is another very challenging project: assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the regional economy, prospects for GVA and employment growth over the next five years and considering the role of investment in skills, innovation and enterprise. Cambridge Econometrics have been commissioned to complete a baseline GVA and employment forecasts to 2015 by sector, cluster and local authority area.

We’ve completed a scenario illustrating the benefits for the regional economy (in terms of GVA and jobs growth) of up-skilling the existing workforce to match national levels.

We’re currently producing a second scenario illustrating the benefits of growing and developing high value added sectors and clusters.

The chart below shows the GVA growth prospects by sector and cluster:

Chart showing GVA growth prospects for the West Midlands by sector and cluster

View full size chart (png, 15kb)

We’re planning to publish a report on this work at the end of May 2010.

Analysis of potential employment and skills needs at Impact Investment Sites

Another key project gathering momentum in April is analysis of potential employment and skills needs at Impact Investment Sites.

These sites are regional investment priorities for economic development, housing and regeneration, transport and skills identified by the Shadow Joint Strategy and Investment Board set up by the Regional Funding Advice 2009-19, a government body.

There are 20 such sites in the West Midlands and include, for example, Ansty Park, Longbridge, Coventry City Centre, Bilston Urban Village, Dudley Town Centre, and i54.

Closeup of map showing impact investment sites in West Midlands

View full size map showing all sites (jpg, 119kb)

Analysis of 16 key sites across the region—gathering data on key projects, likely job creation by sector, occupation and skill level—is due mid-May. Draft reports for nearly 14 of the sites have been completed and the rest are in the pipeline.

The chart below, for example, shows the potential for new job creation expected within various elements of the i54 development project:

Pie chart showing expected levels of employment in i54 regeneration project

View full size chart (png, 13kb)

More about Impact Investment Sites skills analysis »

Annual review of regional skills performance

We’ve collected and analysed most of the indicators for our annual review of regional skills performance. This includes an update of our 3 tier framework of measures, a revised skills index and updated scale of the challenge analysis. This year we’re producing an alternative version of the summary skills index, stripping out public sector investment in training.

The final report is expected by summer 2010.

16–19 Regional Planning Group

Finally, we’re co-ordinating the work of the 16–19 Regional Planning Group’s data and intelligence task and finish group (we had the first meeting in March). We’ve produced two papers on data available, drawn up a terms of reference and started identifying measures of success relating to young people, employers and skills providers. Here are the papers available so far:


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